Wednesday, August 1, 2012

How to pack for your very first hike with kids

Error on the side of going light when day hiking.
Photo courtesy of Petr Kratochvil. 
If you’re new to day hiking with kids (or hiking at all), you’ll probably find that the most difficult hike to pack for is the first one. As you’re not quite certain what to bring, your tendency is to either way overpack or way underpack.

Go seek advice from a hiking guidebook, and you’ll find each author has a slightly different take on what to pack. That’s because everyone has somewhat different needs and creature comforts. What is a throwaway for one hiking parent may be an absolute necessity for you and your children.

Don’t worry: The first couple of hikes are an opportunity to figure out what you need and what you don’t.

Begin by going through the lists of what to pack in three or four hiking books. Write down what all lists have in common; these items probably include a backpack, trekking pole, canteens, walking shoes, layered clothing, first-aid kit, map, and compass, to name a few objects.

Make a second list for the items that aren’t recommended in every hiking book – these items probably include binoculars, head lamps, cords, emergency blankets – and decide if you want to carry them or not. Error on the side of going light, especially if you haven’t gone hiking in a while (or maybe never at all, shame on you!).

Then adjust on the second trip, adding items that you need. But don’t subtract anything!

After going on three or four hikes, review the list of items that not every hiking book recommended. If you haven’t used those items, seriously consider removing them from your load to help lighten it.

Read more about day hiking with children in my guidebook Hikes with Tykes.